Hardy took over to lead the Mavs to a 98-96 win over Thunder in the preseason opener
TULSA, OK – Christian Wood likes to tell who he can than Dallas Mavericks rookie goalie Jaden Hardy was one of the steals in the 2022 NBA draft.
In his first game Wednesday night at the BOK Center — even though it was a preseason game — against genuine NBA talent, Hardy proved Wood’s words were prophetic.
Scoring virtually at will and resuming play in the clutch, Hardy scored 16 of the Mavs’ last 22 points and led them to a 98-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Hardy finished with a game-high 21 points and was 8 of 16 from the field, 4 of 9 from three-point range in just 24 minutes and was clearly arguably the best player on the court.
“Once I’m locked in an area like that, it’s hard to get out,” Hardy said. “I just think I made it, so I just think about playing the right game. That’s what I think about.
“I’m just trying to do the right play, do the right reading.”
Drafted in the second round, Hardy drilled four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including one that gave the Mavs a 98-90 lead with 1:09 remaining in the game. One night when the Mavs were playing their first preseason game, he felt it all night.
“I’ve been saying for a long time that Jaden Hardy is a steal,” Wood said. “His confidence and energy has been so great, and I’m really proud to see him.”
When Hardy resumed playing, Wood said, “That’s what his does. Everyone has the ultimate confidence and believes in him, and as a young man he has a very high level of confidence and that’s what you like to see from a rookie.
Wood certainly didn’t have an argument from coach Jason Kidd.
“It shows the work (Hardy has) done since summer league,” Kidd said. “He spends a lot of time in the gym.
“He comes back in the evening, he works – not just on the floor – but watches a video. He wants to be good, he wants to play, he wants to participate, and again you can see that in tonight’s game.
Wood, who joined the Mavs on a trade from the Houston Rocets last summer, was also a big factor as he finished with 16 points and a record 13 rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I tried not to force things,” said Wood, who was 7 of 13 on the court. “This is all so new to me. It’s a new team, so I’m just trying to figure out where to be offensively with these new guys.
“It took me a while to find the rhythm, but once I found a rhythm, thank goodness Coach Kidd let me play a little more than I was supposed to today. But once I got into the rhythm, I think everything went well.
Kidd said he liked a lot of things about Wednesday’s game, including the way Spencer Dinwiddie and Josh Green led the attack.
“I like the way we started the game,” he said. “Sometimes it is better to release the turnover figures in pre-season. We had 24, which is a lot for us.
“I like the way this group finished the game. Even though we train – and they compete in training – everyone is competing to win. I thought this group at the end made a very, very good job.
WRIGHT HAD THE RIGHT PRODUCT: Point guard McKinley Wright IV had as perfect a game as any player want to.
McKinley had 11 points – on 3 of 6 shooting – and also dished out 10 assists and finished without a turnover in 22 minutes.
“Coach rehearsed all through training camp and practiced the importance of taking care of the ball,” Wright said. “They brought me here and they want to see me involving others and getting into painting and creating for others, and I think that’s what I do best.
“It was easy for me tonight. Thanks to my teammates who made the shots. Without them I wouldn’t have had 10 assists, so all the credit goes to them.
Wright particularly credited rookie goaltender Jaden Hardy.
“I think he got five of my last assists,” Wright said. “You heard it there. He said he is here. It’s a special skill.
“I played him in the (NBA) G League last year. He was with the Ignite and I was with the Minnesota G League team. I went through the hype around him and I was when he had a special talent, so kudos to Jaden, he played strong there tonight.
MATCHES MORE OR LESS PRESEASON: While the Oklahoma City Thunder plays six games during the preseason, the Mavs only play three.
Is there an advantage one way or the other?
“I don’t know if that’s an advantage,” coach Jason Kidd said. “That’s all the organization and the coach want to do. Oklahoma City, being a young team, I don’t think it’s wrong to play six games to work on things before the season starts and watch them in different combinations.
“We have a core group returning from last season and some new faces. I think I can replace some guys who would normally have a lot of minutes – Josh (Green) and Frank (Ntilikina) can get a few minutes here in pre-season to prepare them for the regular season. But three or six, you still have to play them.
KIDD DIDN’T CATCH RUNNING BALL AT HOME NO. 62: On Monday, coach Jason Kidd talked about taking his coaching staff to Arlington to see the Texas Rangers take on the New York Yankees in a doubleheader. Specifically, Kidd was interested in catching the historic No. 62 home run, which Yankee slugger Aaron Judge drilled against the Rangers to become the American League single-season home run record holder.
Roger Maris set the AL home run record of 61 in 1961. So was it Kidd or one of his team members who caught the historic home run No. 62?
“This guy caught it,” Kidd said. “Did you not see me behind him?” I was behind him and he pushed me. He pushed me out of the way.
Kidd, of course, was joking.
On the serious advice, Kidd said: “The value of this ball is expensive. But what a great story to have him in Texas when it comes to Aaron Judge’s home run. Breaking a long-standing record is pretty cool.
BRIEFLY: Luka Doncic (rested), Maxi Kleber (rested), Tim Hardaway Jr. (rested), JaVale McGee (left ankle sprain) and Davis Bertans (right knee effusion) did not make the trip to Tulsa. “Some of them worked this morning in practice,” coach Jason Kidd said. “LD is one of those guys who has work. It’s not a day off for these guys. Some of them still have knee pain. Lots of good stuff this morning for those who didn’t make it, but the presentation was excellent. JaVale actually worked. He twisted his ankle in training (Monday) but he felt better today so we gave him some work, then he will do some work tomorrow and hopefully he can play on Friday. The Mavs will host the Orlando Magic Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Center before wrapping up the preseason game Oct. 14 in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz. Kidd said, “For us, next week becomes a big week for us, being able to prepare for Thursday when we leave for Utah and the game against Utah on Friday.”. .The Mavs flew to Tulsa on Wednesday afternoon, went to the arena and returned to Dallas after the game. . .The Mavs won’t practice Thursday.